Hart District shares uplifting distance learning stories

“Virtual Josh” Nowak sent this picture of how he and the Hart High School counselors are staying connected via Zoom. Courtesy of the William S. Hart Union High School District

As students across the Santa Clarita Valley enter their second week of online distance learning, the William S. Hart Union High School District sought to keep staff spirits high with a weekly email update titled, “What’s Good In Distance Learning.”

“With distance learning being such a new thing for students, teachers and administrators, I wanted to create a forum where people could share their ideas, the things that are working, and good things that are happening,” said Hart District spokesman Dave Caldwell. “Though we’re doing things remotely now, we’re still trying to come together, share and do everything we can for the students as a district to continue learning.”

Each week, the nearly 2,000 Hart District staff and administrators will receive a WGIDL email, filled with uplifting stories from their colleagues, sharing some of their successes in distance learning, while also encouraging them to continue efforts to work together while away.

“Across our district, teachers, support staff, students and parents have demonstrated inspirational creativity, generosity and positivity in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges,” Superintendent Mike Kuhlman wrote in this week’s WGIDL email. “These stories give us hope and remind us that we have the capacity to weather this storm together.”

Many teachers have begun class sessions by asking their students to share some “good things.”

“The kids needed the time to reflect and find the positives amidst the chaos,” Canyon High School’s Cheryl Hanks said in the WGIDL email. “On top of that, they were so happy to have some sense of normalcy to all be able to talk.”

While some have used YouTube to create channels for their students, like West Ranch High School history teacher Adam Holland’s “WR Mighty Historians” channel, others have used it to create a virtual reality version of their usual activities, such as students from West Ranch TV, who plan to release a virtual show each Friday. 

Others, like La Mesa Junior High School Principal Michele Krantz, have chosen to lighten the mood, taking to TikTok to create dance videos. 

Canyon’s Laurel Priesz reminded her colleagues of a time when Fred Rogers was called out of retirement to produce a series of public service announcements after 9/11, a video she has looked back on this past week for some comfort as the country faces the coronavirus pandemic. 

“As a child, I felt a great sense of comfort when watching ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ and this week as I listened to Fred Rogers’ public service announcements it was a balm to my soul, like a warm hug from an old friend,” Priesz said. 

Similarly, West Ranch’s Bill Hughes shared a recent Washington Post article with his class.

“It talks about how Isaac Newton was sent home in 1665 to ‘social distance’ because of the plague at the time,” Hughes said. “It was during this time that Newton began developing calculus and other physics principles. He was only a couple of years older than our seniors. I gave the article to my class and asked them to respond. The majority of my students had really insightful responses.”    

Many responded to the call for WGIDL submissions, and Caldwell received too many to include them all, as well as some he couldn’t include due to privacy issues, such as videos of students reading poetry or virtually rehearsing with their vocal teacher on Zoom.

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